When you are growing fast you end up spending a lot of time getting the right people into the roles in the right structure to help efficiency, communication, quality, and results.
Much of that work ends up being focused on departments, work to be done, and reporting lines. It’s neat and tidy. But, I’ve found when you actually look at the work to be done inside of high-growth startups there are some gaps that don’t always fit into a common org chart.
There are a handful of less obvious roles that can make an immediate positive impact on almost any high-growth startup. You may be hesitant to add the overhead for what appear to be operational roles but in my experience the right people are revenue levers, helping you sell more, faster.
Here are 5 roles you may not have thought of and how they can help drive immediate revenue & sales efficiency impact.
Role: Also known as Sales Engineer, but I prefer to call it Product Specalist. This is a dedicated role that helps distribute product knowledge across a fast-scaling sales and customer success team. If you have a simple product to set up and use, that customers buy with minimal sales & CS interaction, you don’t need this role. But if your sales cycle includes multiple demos, committees, or integrations, this is a role that can help you scale faster. It also provides a better customer experience.
A sales engineer translates use cases into reality, business needs into functional examples, custom requirements into feasible outcomes. In some ways, they become the human face of your product and what it’s capable of.Is it time for a sales engineer?
A product specialist can train reps, shadow new reps until the demo training wheels come off, and join complex demos. They also become the voice of the customer between sales, customer success, product, and engineering.
When to recruit for this role: When your sales hiring is accelerating significantly, and your product is technical or complex. Can contribute value in a sales org as small as 5 reps if highly complex sales cycle.
Reports into: Sales leadership or sales operations. Matrix into product or engineering.
This is a role that should help you save money in external legal fees and increase your deal velocity (reducing sales cycle).
If all your customers sign up online and accept your terms & conditions, you don’t need this role. But, if you are selling to the enterprise, you know there can be lengthy, complex contracts that require several rounds of redlines to get to an agreement.
Usually, in the early days of a start-up, these contracts are reviewed by a founder or outside legal counsel. And that works. But it doesn’t scale, and what ends up happening is you delay turn around times (if you are trying to review the contracts yourself) and/or incur lots of legal fees reviewing contracts (if you are sending them to your lawyer every time you get one).
The great thing about a contract manager is that if you hire the right person, this role can also act as an internal project manager doing some legwork on security assessments.
When to recruit for this role: When you often have more than 5 or 6 customer contracts under review at once. Or when your reps are consistently telling you that contracts aren’t getting turned around fast enough and it’s killing deal velocity.
Reports into: Operations leadership (COO, Director of operations, CEO, etc).
By the way, this isn’t legal advice, so please consult with your legal counsel on how a contract manager may or may not fit into your company.
Sales operations manager
This is a role that will remove obstacles for your sales team so they can sell more, faster. Initially, this role should be a swiss-army knife handling everything from CRM management to creating your sales playbook to rep training & onboarding and anything in between. The startup sales operations manager acts as a right hand to the sales leader.
A sales operations manager makes your sales team more effective, so you get more done with fewer headcount. In the early days when the sales team is small, this role is tactical, operational, and strategic.
[The role of sales operations is]…centralizing tasks and strategy to make individual reps more productive.InsightSquared
When to recruit for this role: When you have a sales leader and between 4-6 reps, it’s time to bring on sales operations.
Reports into: Sales leadership.
This is a role for true product-led companies that also have inside sales. In a product-led company, there are some (usually MANY) inbound leads that are ready to buy. Rather than routing those leads to sales, where they enter into a sales process, route them to a sales coordinator to just close in a single transaction.
One of the reasons that I like this role is it’s a great, frictionless buying experience for people who can’t buy online but are ready to go. Another is that the cost of sales is lower because it’s not a commissioned role.
When to recruit for this role: When your sales team is literally just taking orders for leads that come in saying things like, “Where can I send my purchase order?” or “Can I wire payment?”.
Reports into: Sales leadership, sales operations or finance.
This is a role that helps bring together all your sales and marketing technology to work as one coordinated, integrated machine. This can be a tough one to fill, but very necessary if you are scaling your go-to-market tech stack and expect it to actually work.
A marketing technologist is a technically skilled person who designs and operates technology solutions in the service of marketing…They help nontechnical marketers craft better campaigns, programs, and customer experiences that effectively leverage software and data.McKinsey
Modern marketing requires a deep understanding of how all the marketing tools fit together. It’s very much a machine, one that is rooted in varying levels of technical nuance. A person who knows marketing technology, has integrated and run it before, can go a long way in saving you from hunting down problems and avoiding broken parts of the chain. A marketing technologist creates a better machine that drives more transparency and accuracy. They make sure leads don’t get stuck and help drive visibility into activity and growth levers.
When to recruit for this role: As soon as you have more than 4 or 5 critical technologies that your go-to-market engine relies on. Think CRM, marketing automation, sales automation, sales & marketing analytics, reporting, etc. Initially, you may be able to use a part-time contractor to help with integrations of your tools, but at some point, you’ll need to bring this in-house with a full-time role.
Reports into: Marketing leadership.
Fill the operational gaps so your team can sell more
There are gaps in high growth startups that need to be filled. Don’t worry about what they are called, or if it fits into a neat and tidy org chart. Just fill the gaps.